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The One Who Fills Heaven and Earth

  • September 2018 Issue
Theology Matters

God created the physical universe, and He also inhabits it. In Jeremiah 23:24, the Lord characterizes Himself as one who fills heaven and earth. This spatial language shows that no place in all creation exists from which God is excluded. He is always present everywhere. The theological term for this divine attribute is omnipresence.

According to theologian Herman Bavinck, omnipresence is God’s infinity applied to space. The psalmist wrote of God’s omnipresence: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:8–10).

The doctrine of divine omnipresence is not the same as pantheism. Omnipresence teaches that God fills all of creation. Pantheism asserts that all creation is God or divine. Scripture teaches that God is distinct from His creation. He made it and is separate from it. Creation is dependent upon God and is supported by His power (Col. 1:16–17). God, on the other hand, does not depend upon creation for anything. He “is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).

Omnipresence is also unlike the god portrayed in Deism, a divine presence who sets creation in motion and then steps away from it. Although God is separate from creation, He is engaged with and acts within it.

God’s presence is a reality in the physical world, but it should not be understood in a physical sense. He is not diffused in the atmosphere like a gas. God is not contained by what He has created. God does not fill creation the way water fills a glass or air fills the atmosphere. The fact that God is equally present in every location does not mean that He manifests His presence the same way everywhere. He has made His presence known in a variety of ways and to varying degrees.

Divine omnipresence means no place or circumstance is beyond the scope of God’s presence. Wherever we may go, God is already there before us.

To learn more, read God and the Cosmos: Divine Activity in Space, Time and History by Harry Lee Poe and Jimmy H. Davis (InterVarsity).

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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